You may have heard the term ‘action research’ used in your staff rooms, team meetings or on Workplace. This blog entry aims to explain precisely what is meant by this and to hopefully inspire you to get involved!
What is action research?
Teachers are problem solvers. We reflect upon our sessions throughout their delivery and then afterwards so as to ensure that we meet the diverse needs of our learners. Indeed:
Every learning environment is a gold mine of useful data. Each day a learner attends a course, they may be engaged or distracted, interact productively with peers or experience difficulties in social situations, complete assignments proficiently or poorly, and express enthusiasm or disinterest for the material being covered. As educators, we notice these small bites of data, but how often do we systematically collect this data in order to assess our own methods?
Action research refers to the process of doing just that – setting a focused research question that could allow us to understand our learners and our own teaching even better, to diagnose problems, to solve problems or maybe to trial a new methodology in our classrooms.
Why do it?
- Reflective practice (in line with the ETF standards)
- Problem Diagnosing
- Problem Solving
- Trying out something new
- CPD – personal and professional development
How does it work?
Select a topic or question. Some examples of projects currently underway at the college are:
- Does altering the physical appearance of a learning environment positively enhance the motivation levels of sports students’ within a General Further Education College?
- An investigation to review the Digital Fluency Levels of Teachers within a General Further Education College.
- An investigation to reflect on the changing motivations, aspirations and confidence levels of sport students throughout an academic year.
Gather baseline data and approval – a simple Survey Monkey will allow you to gather information from your learners before commencing the study. Be sure to get permission forms signed by all participants (templates available).
Set the timeframe – 6 weeks or 1 half-term is a perfect target timeframe for an action research process, although this can of course be extended or reduced according to the demands of your project.
Collect the information – this can be done through a range of typical techniques such as surveys, observation, learner interviews and SWIVL technology.
Analyse the data – in comparison with the baseline and your expectations for the project. Excel can help you produce some graphs, charts and tables.
Write up findings – this does not need to be as laborious as it may first seem! A common method of presentation is the academic poster, some examples of which are below:
Take action! – the critical final stage of any action research process. Use the findings to inform your future practice, share the results with your learners and colleagues and ensure that maximum impact can be felt in your classroom and beyond. The results may even inform your next proposal!
What extra work does it involve?
Time is of course a highly precious commodity but the demands on time for action research are not as high as you might think. Choosing a topic that could have maximum impact on the learning experience and you might also enjoy doing will also add to the positive experience of an action research project. The key processes to work through would be: write a proposal, design a survey or data collection method, collect the data and write-up your findings.
You should allow one full term for this process and don’t forget you set your own deadlines!
What happens with the results?
Action research reports are due to be collated for inclusion in a college publication, will form the basis of our first ever annual Teach Meet in June 2017 and will also contribute to the discussion at future LAT meetings across the organisation. They may also inspire you to kick on and write your first book or academic article!
How do I get involved?
Contact us via the comments section below or on Workplace or email Dave Horsfield on firstname.lastname@example.org
As ever, we look forward to hearing from you!